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New Arts Minister Mitch Fifield – Committed to Consultation

New Arts Minister Mitch Fifield’s brush with disability art

Michaela Boland, The Australian, 3 October, 2015.

New Arts Minister Mitch Fifield, has rejected the notion he has not engaged with the arts and said as the former assistant minister for social services he had recently met artists at an indigenous art centre to talk about their portrayal of people with disability.

He said he also, “enjoyed the performances of e.motion 21, a performance company for dan­cers with Down syndrome”.

“I have also viewed many works by cognitively impaired older Australians who have discovered or maintained their artistic capabilities and I opened an exhibition of works by people who survived polio, some of which are in my Melbourne office,” he said.

Yesterday Senator Fifield accepted an invitation to a weekend performance of Circa’s “Carnival of the Animals at the Arts Centre in Melbourne … after watching Hawthorn win the grand final”.

However, he has not said whether he will accompany the Australian Ballet when it performs in China this month. It was announced in May that then arts minister George Brandis, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, would attend the ballet’s opening night in Beijing on October 16.

The company hopes to know next week if either minister will join the tour.

A co-convener of arts industry lobby group ArtsPeak, Nicole Beyer, said she expected Senator Fifield’s limited knowledge of the broader arts industry would be overcome by his stated ­com­mit­ment to consultation. “What is more important is how open he is to now learning about the arts, ­attending things and listening to different sectors,” Ms Beyer said.

ArtsPeak has commandeered a campaign against the budget announcement that $105 million was to be cut from the Australia Council for distribution through a new excellence program overseen by Senator Brandis.

The executive producer of Geelong main stage Down syndrome theatre company Back to Back, Alice Nash, said she had not met Senator Fifield in his capacity as minister responsible for disability services but welcomed his ­appointment to the arts portfolio.

Because of the cuts, Back to Back’s Australia Council funding is secure only until the end of next year.

Ms Nash said the company looked forward to the perspective Senator Fifield would bring to the arts. “Small companies, companies of difference and independent artists originating outside the so-called norm contribute to the richness and diversity of Australian cultural life ,’’ she said.

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